Apologies for the title. But reading this article from the Wall Street Journal this morning reveals to me with an evermore greater clarity exactly why we’re in the shit we’re in. Some choice thoughts from this excellent piece on the subject of what economists really (don’t) know:
As Greece girds for elections next month that could lead to its exit from the euro zone, economists are acknowledging an unsettling reality: No one knows what the bill will be.
The Institute of International Finance, a global association of banks that has represented private lenders to Greece in negotiations with the country, took a broader view. In a February report that leaked in March, it put the total cost at a minimum of €1 trillion, including over €700 billion that could be needed to prop up other troubled European economies, including Portugal and Italy.
“The IIF went for a trillion because, why not?” says Gary Jenkins, founder of Swordfish Research, a U.K. bond-analysis firm. “It’s a great figure, sounds fantastic.” However, Mr. Jenkins adds, “I don’t think anyone can work out a precise figure. The uncertainties are just absolutely huge.”
So whilst Mr Cameron’s government berates us for not putting our household affairs in order, his chummy friends at stratospheric economic levels go for a back-of-the-envelope figure when pricing the cost of things – because it “sounds fantastic”. And in the meantime, such back-of-the-envelope merchants continue to describe the less-advantaged economic powerhouses of the West as PIGS.
Question is, who are those “youse”?
Economists will argue that as theoreticians and thinkers, they simply lay before those who take the decisions the options they’ve duly imagined.
On the other hand, those who participated in developing the atom bomb surely had qualms of conscience around the matter – even if they took no part in the final decision to drop it.
So do we blame the economists for creating a self-consuming Darwinian evil of winner takes all? Or do we blame the politicians for eagerly attaching themselves to such theories when the intellectual times we live in could’ve delivered so much more?
Or can we simply rejoice – in a cutting-one’s-nose-off kind of way – that even the experts must now experience the directionless impotence the rest of us are living from day-to-bloody-day?